11 creative (but 100% white hats!) Ways to earn backlinks in 2021

If you want to drive organic traffic to your website, you need to understand two important aspects of SEO strategy:

When it comes to relevance, it’s important to know what your audience is looking for and deliver the highest quality, most relevant content so that Google can deliver it easily.

However, this is not an exact science.

You might be creating the best content from your point of view, but it’s a competitive landscape and Google takes a myriad of other factors into account when ranking pages on the SERPs. One of them is … how authoritative (or trustworthy) the provider of that content is.

You may think “authority” is subjective, but Google has one critical way of measuring it: backlinks.

What are backlinks?

A backlink (also known as an inbound link) is a link that comes from another website to your website. Visually, the link can be placed in text, on an image or as a button. As long as the source is another website, all of these connections are considered backlinks. Backlinks are very important in search engine optimization as they are one of the most important ranking factors for any major search engine.

Why are backlinks important?

Although there are 200 known Google ranking factors, backlinks are one of the most important ones for Google searches.

That’s because a link to another website is more than just a link – it’s a vote of confidence, a recommendation, a way for publishers to tell their readers, “Here’s a source I trust. Try it for yourself.” out.”

This type of support is incredibly difficult to get, especially for a small business or start-up. However, if you want to increase your SEO performance, you need to make sure that you are consistently getting high quality backlinks to your website, better and faster than your competition.

Gabi Theard, Marketing Director at Trujay, also says, “A link building strategy not only increases your SEO score and visibility on Google. It also shows readers where your company stands in relation to other brands – and reminds readers of that in fact a human behind the screen. Backlinks can demonstrate a relationship between two websites and how each website works for the growth of the other websites. “

“Also, backlinks help readers get the highest quality information that answers their questions.”

High quality backlinks

Note, however, that not all backlinks are created equal. If you view a backlink as a vote of confidence, it only makes sense to evaluate the credibility of that vote as well.

In the past, tactics like link farming, PBNs, and comment spam have allowed black hat SEOs to create extensive backlink profiles and play the system successfully. However, these black hat link building techniques no longer work because Google knows their way around them. In fact, having too many “unnatural” links on your website can even penalize your website.

In other words, quality is just as important as quantity when it comes to backlinks.

Getting high quality backlinks is probably the hardest part of search engine optimization. You want links that are:

  • Authoritative – The site has an authoritative backlink profile (lots of votes of trust), generates a lot of traffic and even ranks well in the SERPs itself. Additionally, .gov and .edu websites tend to have more weight, as do industry-leading websites.
  • Relevant – The referring page deals with a similar topic or niche. E.g. if your tech company’s homepage receives a backlink from a blog post on the topic of “golfing”, this is not considered a relevant or high quality backlink.
  • Unique – You get an advantage if the website links to you but not your competitors. Otherwise, the backlink might be good to have, but it’s all about table stakes.
  • Naturally – The link is not sponsored, the anchor text is not branded or spam and the referring page contains a natural number of links.

As an SEO strategist specifically focused on link building at HubSpot, the challenge of finding high quality sources that point to your website is no stranger to me. To help you improve your company’s SEO ranking, I’ve made this list of creative and unique ways to earn backlinks.

This is how you get backlinks

  1. Reclaim unlinked mentions
  2. Get contextual links
  3. Get ‘Best X’ List Mentions
  4. Become a resource for other publishers
  5. Reach out to journalists
  6. Update old content
  7. Create free tools
  8. Publish the ultimate manuals
  9. Use images to get links and mentions
  10. Use directories (yes, directories!)
  11. Use the broken link building method

1. Reclaim unlinked mentions

Reclaiming unlinked brand names is probably the easiest and fastest way to build high quality backlinks.

All you have to do is keep an eye on who is mentioning your brand, on blogs or in the news. You can do this with something as simple (and free) as Google Alerts. If you want more insight into your mentions, e.g. For example, the number of shares or the domain authorization of the website from which the mention comes, you can opt for tools such as BuzzSumo, Ahrefs Content Explorer or Mention.

Ahrefs Content Explorer

Image source

Often times, you will find that the author did not include a link back to your website when they mention your brand, product, or service. Then you can send them a quick note and ask for a correct link assignment. This way the publisher can provide their readers with a better experience and let them click through to learn more about the brand mentioned. It’s a win, win.

The creative part of this tactic is that you can, in the same way, reclaim links for other mentions related to your brand – including events you organize, staff names, research reports, etc.

For example, you can look out for interviews featuring executives from your company and ask for a link back to their profile page on your website. You can also look for mentions of reports or statistics that you have published and ask for a correct link assignment to the original source.

2. Get contextual links

Did you notice that some articles contain additional resources that are recommended either within the text or in a “More Information” section?

Here is an example of a “Read More” section from SEJ where they reference a related piece:

These links embedded in the text of an article are called context links.

The key to getting contextual links is finding the right link prospect to reach them. You can find them by researching articles related to the content you are promoting that already have a “Read More” section.

Let’s say you have a new study on email marketing. Look for articles that talk about marketing trends and recommend other articles.

Here’s how to find them using search engines like Google:

  • Marketing trends inurl: Blog intext: “Read more”
  • Marketing trends inurl: Blog intext: “Recommended articles”
  • Marketing trends inurl: Blog intext: “Recommended reading”

When reaching out to the author to get your study published, don’t forget to mention why your content is worth getting published. A convincing boilerplate and a personalized email will go a long way.

Additionally, Theard says, “Once you get into the habit of earning backlinks, you may find that other publishers come straight to you. With the right relationship-building strategy, publishers come to you instead of checking with them.”

She adds, “Relationship-based backlinks are crucial as opposed to simply (and frequently) exchanging links. Google can and will pick up on whimsical backlink publications. A backlink for a backlink is not a good backlink. A relationship -based backlink is used by Google accepts relevant keywords, website credibility, and real efforts to make website referrals high on the list. “

3. Get the mentions of the “Best X” list

Today’s consumers are looking at all of the options available before making a purchase decision. They often use comparison websites or articles like “The 13 Best Free Email Marketing Tools In 2021” to see what others recommend.

To get a feel for how popular these Best X articles are in your industry, use a keyword research tool and check the monthly search volume. For example, there are more than 3,400 searches per month for the query “Best CRM for Small Businesses” (according to Ahrefs).

Having them featured in articles that list the best products like the one you have is a fantastic way to build your brand, get more people to try your product, and of course, earn high quality backlinks.

Alex Birkett, Senior Growth Marketing Manager at HubSpot, explains why being on these lists is so important to your business: “When you look at these search results in terms of CTR, there is a limit to your traffic you can Get to your own product page by ranking on your own website’s list. “

Birkett goes on to say, “As Nick Eubanks mentioned, if you can expand your view from trying to rank 1 to trying to monopolize all the websites on the first page of a search query, you can multiply the number of clicks . Passages to your website, your website traffic, and later your sales volume. It doesn’t even take into account the less traceable aspects like social proof and brand awareness. “

“In other words, this tactic goes beyond link building and also leverages the potential for acquisition and brand awareness.”

Start with a simple Google search to find high-ranking blogs writing about your product or industry so that your product or service can be included in a listing overview.

Here are some useful search terms you can use to find relevant prospects:

  • best [X]
  • best [X] to the [Y] E.g. best CRM for entrepreneurs
  • above [X]
  • above [X] to the [Y] e.g. Top 10 CRM for small businesses

Gather the most relevant prospects in a list and prioritize them based on domain eligibility (or domain rating if you’re using Ahrefs), backlink profile, ranking, and referral traffic potential.

When your final list is ready, give the author a brief description of why your product or service deserves to be on the list.

As with any outreach campaign, a short, compelling pitch and customized email will help you stand out.

4. Become a resource for other publishers

Using your expertise and unique data, you can become a resource for other bloggers and journalists.

Every time someone quotes you, you get a backlink. However, high domain authority backlinks aren’t the only benefit of this tactic (although they are a huge benefit on their own). By becoming a trusted source, you will also increase your brand awareness and drive referral traffic to your website.

Best of all, it’s not as difficult as you might think.

First of all, simply subscribe to HARO (Help A Reporter Out). This is a free service that connects expert sources (like yourself) with bloggers and journalists looking for contributors.

This is how it works – HARO sends you an email every day with questions from authors in your industry. You can choose the ones that resonate with your business and respond by email, including your credentials.

Speed ​​is very important here as most of these writers get a lot of reviews. If you are among the first to answer, you have a better chance of being seen and selected for the final piece. If you’re selected, you will likely receive an email from a journalist or blogger letting you know that the article is live.

For example, here is an email that I received a few days after submitting an offer for HARO:

Email response from the journalist that a quote submitted via HARO has been accepted for publication

In my experience with HARO, it takes about four weeks for an article to be published after you send your reply. Even if you don’t receive a follow-up email from the author, keep an eye on the publication to see if your quote will ultimately get into the piece.

I found that an average of two out of ten responses are picked up. That’s not bad, but if you’re like me you don’t want to waste the other eight answers that aren’t published.

To ensure that you continue to use these quotes elsewhere, we recommend creating a content jam and using it to answer similar questions on Quora, LinkedIn, or even on your own blog or social channels.

5. Contact journalists

Bloggers and journalists are bombarded with emails that contain information that is too promotional and doesn’t add value to their readers. Because of this, many outreach emails receive no replies.

However, there are effective methods for making your pitch stand out. Aira Co-Founder Paddy Moogan explains how his team successfully uses these tactics to get quality backlinks for their customers:

“We take a person from a client’s company, usually the founder, director, or CEO (although it can be anyone) and have them share their views and opinions on a range of subjects.

These topics should be a sweet spot between what your company speaks credibly about and general current topics. Classic examples are currently things like the importance of Brexit for the X industry or the future of the X industry in the world of AI or automation.

There is much talk in the press about these broader subjects. So if you keep them engaged on a topic your client can talk about, you can reach out to journalists and share their comments on upcoming articles. Because of this, they often link to you and often also link to profile pages on your client’s website. “

Jeff Previte, Content Manager at Bluleadz, also gave me a tip on how her agency stands out when it comes to selecting journalists: “When we’re looking for new link building opportunities, we love to use HubSpot videos in our emails. We record a short video We introduce ourselves and our company. After the introduction we briefly explain how our content can add value to the audience and make some suggestions as to what they can link to. This gives a human element. Most connections Link building comes from cold email templates In a video, we give the recipients a name, a face and a voice that they can connect to our company. This little touch helps us to stand out. “

6. Update old content

If you come across an article or research report that hasn’t been updated in a while, check to see how many backlinks the piece has. If there are a lot of publications referencing this content then you have made yourself a real gem.

You can just make a better, fresh piece with more relevant data.

Once the content is live, you can reach out to bloggers or journalists who linked to the old content to let them know of your updated version.

You will often see the results of your contact within a few days or weeks in the form of backlinks or social media shares. But there are other benefits of building this relationship as well. For example, you might end up collaborating on other projects that can help you grow your brand and traffic.

Ultimately, when building your email contact list, think of a long-term benefit and try to build a relationship – rather than just focusing on the backlink.

7. Create free tools

Creating free tools like calculators or template generators is an effective way to earn links and even generate new leads.

In short, here’s how to get started:

  1. Start with keyword research and see what “templates”, “tools” or “generators” are in your industry.
  2. Check out which tools appear in the top 10 search results for those keywords.
  3. Try to find out which tool or generator is getting the most backlinks right now.
  4. Build something similar but much better, e.g. better design, more customizable options, etc.

Take HubSpot’s email signature generator, for example. There are over 29,000 “signature generator” searches on Google every month, and our tool offers a very simple, aesthetically pleasing solution.

Since we started it has been hugely popular and recommended as it has earned over 5,520 backlinks from 1,168 referring domains.

8. Publish Ultimate Guides

An ultimate guide is content designed to be the best and most comprehensive resource on a particular topic. There is enough information in it that you do not need to learn more about the subject.

Here are two examples from our own blog:

The reason these Ultimate Guides attract inbound backlinks is because they help bloggers and journalists refer to a concept they mentioned.

For example, if someone is writing an article titled “Getting Started With SEO,” they can focus on a few tips and tactics without explaining in detail what SEO is. Instead, they can simply link to an SEO Ultimate Guide if their readers have further questions.

Here is an example:

Article on

Image source

Alex Birkett, Senior Growth Marketing Manager at HubSpot, also uses this approach on his personal blog. Here’s how he explains it: “An Ultimate Guide doesn’t have to tell you explicitly that it’s an Ultimate Guide. It just has to go beyond that in its usefulness or perceived value.”

“For example,” Birkett continues, “I recently wrote a 6,500 word guide on A / B testing. It ranges from beginner problems to advanced topics and edge cases. Basically, it’s a bookmark for anyone with A / B executes. ” Testing. Not only has it seen a really solid initial spike in traffic from social shares, but organic links are being gained on a regular basis from month to month. “

ultimate guide to A / B testing

9. Use images to get links and mentions

Infographics are probably the most common visual element used to create backlinks. It’s always good to experiment with them if you haven’t already.

However, if you think infographics aren’t working well for your brand, here are some other visuals you might want to create:

  • Diagrams and graphics with original data
  • Diagrams to visually explain complex concepts
  • One-sided templates
  • Free photo galleries for others

Check out this creative campaign from LinkedIn, The Real Face of Sales, to give you an idea of ​​how other brands are using free photo galleries. The brand has created a free library of downloadable photos featuring real, non-clichéd sellers.

The photos are also available on Unsplash and Pexels (where they have been viewed over 35 million times) which helped with distribution.

10. Use directories (yes, directories!)

Despite what you might have heard, directories aren’t dead. In fact, they’re probably one of the best ways to improve your local SEO and help potential customers find your business.

Of course, I’m not talking about spam directories that are only there for links. These are more likely to affect your SEO performance than anything else.

The directories you need to be on are actually in use – like Google My Business, Yelp, and TripAdvisor. Besides these famous ones, there are many other general directories and niche directories that can improve your ranking and traffic.

Here are some resources to help you find relevant directories:

11. Use the broken link building method

This tactic involves going to a website with a broken outbound link (a link to an external source) and suggesting that we update it with a link to one of your pages. Of course, your page needs to be a good resource on the topic it was originally linked to. So it makes sense to swap the broken link with yours.

The reason this tactic works so well is because it adds a lot of value to the webmasters – it helps them fix a bug on their website and it improves the experience for their readers.

The challenge with this tactic, of course, is to find those broken connections.

You have a few options here:

  1. You can search for broken link websites and find relevant resources on your website that you may suggest for them.
  2. You can search for a dead page (404) that used to get a ton of links, recreate this article or offer it with better, more relevant content, and then reach out to those who linked to the first piece.

Either way, you need a good SEO tool that can help you identify broken links. You can try Siteliner, which is free if you have fewer than 250 pages to review, or Ahrefs, which also published a guide on how to use the broken link method with their tool.

Once you have identified the target websites and have your content ready, you can start working on your reach. Make sure your emails are short and sweet and focus on being helpful rather than just getting a backlink.

Make sure you have the right backlink checkers in your SEO toolbox

Now that you have a list of tactics to try in your next link building campaign, you need to make sure that you also have the tools you need to be successful.

Since there are so many options, I thought I would end this article with a list of my best free, proven backlink checkers.

Best Free Backlinks Checkers

  1. Ahrefs backlink checker
  2. Backlinks (Neil Patel)
  3. MonitorBacklinks
  4. OpenLinkProfiler
  5. RankWatch
  6. CognitiveSEO

To make it easier for you to choose the right tool for your next project, I’ve tested each tool to see how many backlinks they can find, as well as other unique features they each have.

I used our domain (www.hubspot.com) to test the functionality of the individual tools. I found the following:

1. Ahrefs backlink checker

With the second most active crawler next to Google, Ahrefs has the most comprehensive backlink database that provides you with up-to-date data. In the free version of the tool, Ahrefs shows you the top 100 backlinks, top 5 anchors and top 5 pages. This is enough to get a bird’s eye view of your website’s backlinks.

If you want to know more details, the paid version offers far more extensive data and access to other tools that can be useful in a link building campaign, such as: B. Content Explorer or Broken Outbound Links, to name just a few.

2. Backlinks from Neil Patel

It may not track as many backlinks or referring domains as Ahrefs, but this tool offers a lot of value in the free version. For one, you can export up to 5,000 backlinks to CSV and view the title, url and anchor text of the source page. You can also filter the view by including or excluding domains, anchors, or zones (.es, .de, etc.). All in all, I would definitely recommend giving this free tool a try.

3. MonitorBacklinks

MonitorBacklinks takes in almost as many referring domains as Ahrefs. What’s also special about MonitorBacklinks is that it provides details about the top backlinks that you can see based on Trust Flow or Citation Flow. However, in order to be able to access more databases, you have to switch to the paid version.

4. OpenLinkProfiler

OpenLinkProfiler is a great tool for analyzing your backlink profile. The downside is that their database of links is quite limited compared to Ahrefs or MonitorBacklinks. Nevertheless, there are many insights that you can gain (for free) by filtering the available backlinks by categories such as industry, TLDs, anchors or LIS (Link Influence Score). I haven’t seen this in any other free tool.

This tool also provides charts to show you which pages are getting the most links or which countries are linking to your website the most.

5. RankWatch

RankWatch has a great dashboard feature that you can use to visualize your backlink profile. Among other things, you can see your link acquisition trend for the past three months by referencing domain acquisition and anchor distribution. The general overview diagrams are available free of charge. However, if you want to see the exact list of backlinks or referring domains earned, you need to switch to the paid version.

6. CognitiveSEO

CognitiveSEO is ideal for getting an overview of all backlinks and referring domains – and above all for checking the speed of your links. You can see the link acquisition trend over the past 6 months for free, even without creating an account. Another interesting visual report is the top 5 web pages where you can see how your website is doing based on backlinks or recommendation domains.

All of the above tools provide valuable insights that can help you get started with link building. They all provide a macro view of your backlink profile, but each contain different additional information. Try them out and find out which one works best for you.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2019 and has been updated for completeness.

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